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Dalton, Ponder must break through in 2013 or risk Sanchez's fate

Andy Dalton has zero touchdowns and four interceptions in two playoff losses. (USATSI)Andy Dalton has zero touchdowns and four interceptions in two playoff losses. (USATSI)

The Jets traded up for Mark Sanchez, even though he only started for one season at USC, because he blew the Jets' staff away at his private workout. He also delivered as a Jet ... at first.

Sanchez started from opening day as a rookie and stayed under center all the way to the AFC Championship Game in his first two seasons. He was going beyond what's expected of first- or second-year QBs, but the Jets wanted more from their young signal caller, and even chased Peyton Manning last offseason.

Comparing Sanchez's first two seasons
Regular season
Sanchez19-12 (31G)
Dalton19-13 (32G)
Ponder12-15 (27G)
Record vs. playoff teams
Playoff record
Playoff production
Sanchez9 TD, 3 INT, 4 SK
Dalton0 TD, 4 INT, 6 SK
Ponder0 TD, O INT, O SK
Regular season production
Sanchez29 TD, 33 INT, 53 SK
Dalton47 TD, 29 INT, 70 SK
Ponder31 TD, 25 INT, 62 SK
Sacks per attempt
INTs per attempt
TDs per attempt

But when Manning passed, the Jets gave Sanchez a contract extension and also signed Tim Tebow. The result was a disasterous season, with the Tebow distraction and a number of injuries contributing to Sanchez's poor play.

Now, in the wake of a 6-10 season, Sanchez is fighting for his professional life, and most people who follow the Jets think he's a dead man walking. What a shame for a young man who had a 4-2 playoff record, all on the road, in his first two seasons with nine touchdown passes, three interceptions and four sacks in postseason games.

Short-term memory is the lesson in the Sanchez case, and now two young quarterbacks find themselves in the same boat heading into their 2013 season that Sanchez did.

Right now, Andy Dalton is the talk of the town in Cincinnati after leading the Bengals to the playoffs in his first two seasons in the league, but losing in the first round both years. Last year, his Bengals managed just 13 points in the wild-card loss to Houston. In fact, Dalton has faced Houston in his only two postseason games and has two losses, zero touchdowns, four interceptions and six sacks.

That's a lot worse than Sanchez's numbers in the postseason in his first two years. Dalton has to break through this season with a playoff win or the pressure will start to mount and his career might look like Sanchez's in a year.

Christian Ponder is up in Minnesota and facing his third year as a starter. So far, he has been looking like a potential long-term answer to the quarterback question for the Vikings, but he hasn't come close to what Sanchez accomplished in his first two seasons. He might be in for a rude awakening after this season if he doesn't get more done.

Take a look at Sanchez's first two seasons, as well as Dalton's and Ponder's first two seasons. You decide for yourself if there is cause for alarm for the Bengals and Vikings at QB.

Sanchez had more wins over playoff-caliber teams in his first two seasons than Dalton and Ponder combined over the same period of time. Sanchez has more playoff wins than the two combined, and neither Dalton nor Ponder has ever thrown a postseason touchdown pass while Sanchez had nine in his first two seasons. How soon we forget how well Sanchez started out his NFL career.

Finally, Sanchez plays in New York with a much bigger microscope on him than in Cincinnati or Minnesota. Nonetheless, Dalton and Ponder could easily face the scrutiny that Sanchez faces if they don't make some real noise in the playoffs this year. At the end of this season, barring injury, both Dalton and Ponder will have well over 40 starts and the honeymoon will be over. For Sanchez, the writing is on the wall.

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